Popular music has always struck a vibrant chord in Wigan, stretching from George Formby and his father right through to 90s rock group The Verve.
The dance troupe The Eight Lancashire Lads, who gave Charlie Chaplin his professional debut, were from Wigan.
So too was Georgie Fame, as well as operatic singers Thomas Burke and Margery Booth, who was also an intrepid wartime spy. Limahl, lead singer of Kajagoogoo, was born in Pemberton.
Not only that, the groups The Railway Children, The Tansads, Witness and Starsailor all started in Wigan – not to mention the worldwide phenomenon of Northern Soul.
From 1973 to 1981, what started life as the Empress Ballroom became the Wigan Casino – the home of the town’s weekly Northern Soul all-nighters. In 1978 it was named the best disco in the world.
Northern Soul was a far cry from the music hall act George Formby Senior performed round the stages of Northern England in the early 20th century.
His famous son George Formby Junior took over the act on his father’s death in 1921, delivering it word for word. He didn’t alter a single note of the songs either.
That all changed in 1923 when he bought a ukulele and married fellow performer Beryl Ingham, who became his manager.
Formby quickly went on to star in numerous films and found international fame as the UK’s highest paid entertainer in the 1930s and 40s.
His trademark Lancastrian accent and ukulele were instantly recognisable and his songs were the smash hits of his day. Classic tunes like When I’m Cleaning Windows and Leaning on a Lamp Post are rightly regarded as comic gems.
Few musical stories can be as intriguing as that of Wigan-born opera singer Margery Booth, who married Dr Egon Strohm and lived in Germany before becoming a spy in World War II.
She sang before Hitler moments after a British officer had hidden secret documents in her dress. The German dictator was so impressed that he sent her red roses wrapped in a Swastika flag.
Captured and tortured by the Gestapo, Booth gave nothing away – and her testimony led to the convictions of both Lord Haw Haw and John Amery for treason.
Moving forward, former Wigan cotton-weaver turned singer-songwriter Georgie Fame went straight to the top of the charts with his 1964 release Yeh, Yeh.
The catchy Latin soul tune, first recorded by Mongo Santamaria, ended the Beatles’ five-week stranglehold at the top of the charts with I Feel Fine.
Fame then became the only British pop star to have recorded three Number One hits with his only Top 10 chart entries. Following Yeh Yeh were Get Away in 1966 and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.
Fame, born Clive Powell, also worked extensively with his friend Alan Price of the Animals during the 1970s. The pair had a hit with Rosetta in 1971.
Singer Limahl, whose stage name is an anagram of his real name Christopher Hamill, found nationwide fame when Kajagoogoo’s debut single Too Shy went straight to Number One in January 1983.
Too more hits followed. The single Ooh to Be Ah reached No. 7 in the UK charts and Hang on Now climbed to No. 11. Their album White Feathers peaked at No. 5.
The Verve were formed in Wigan in 1990 by Richard Ashcroft (vocals), Nick McCabe (guitar), Simon Jones (bass) and Peter Salisbury (drums). They met at Winstanley Sixth Form College.
The band’s breakthrough came in 1997 with their LP Urban Hymns, still one of the best-selling UK albums of all time. It features the iconic single Bitter Sweet Symphony as well as the hits The Drugs Don’t Work and Lucky Man.
Finally, as well as producing some of Britain’s best musical stars, Wigan has welcomed a few too. The Beatles played a memorable concert at the town’s ABC cinema in October 13th 1964 as our image of screaming fans clearly proves!
It was part of the Beatles’ UK tour which took in 26 venues in less than two months! Straight after playing Wigan, the Fab Four moved on to the ABC cinema in Manchester.